While the number of pedestrians killed in vehicle-related accidents in the United States had previously been declining, that trend has taken a surprising and negative turn in recent years. A new study from the Governors Highway Safety Association reports an “alarming rise” in pedestrian deaths, estimating that over 6,200 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in 2018 alone. This number shows a drastic difference when compared to the reported number of pedestrian deaths in 2008, which totaled just over 4,000.
There are a variety of contributing factors researchers associate with this rise in pedestrian deaths, including an increase in impaired driving related to alcohol use and the use of smartphones while operating a motor vehicle, as well as speeding and unsafe road infrastructure.
When most people think about pedestrian-vehicle accidents, it is common to assume the driver is always at fault due to the level of harm a vehicle has the potential to cause to a pedestrian. While this may be true in some cases, the driver may not always be to blame during an accident, even when involving a pedestrian.
How is fault determined in Massachusetts?
An accident involving a pedestrian requires the same showing of evidence as any other type of accident to establish liability due to negligence. In a negligence claim against a driver, the plaintiff must prove four elements:
- The driver had a legal duty to exhibit reasonable care when driving.
- The driver breached this duty by failing to drive as a reasonably prudent person under the circumstances.
- The negligence of the driver was the direct and proximate cause of the accident.
- The driver’s negligence resulted in damages to the plaintiff.
The plaintiff is required to prove each and every one of these elements by a preponderance of the evidence, which means that the evidence demonstrates each element is satisfied on a more likely than not standard.
When is a Massachusetts driver at fault?
In the simplest of terms, a driver is considered at fault in a pedestrian-vehicle accident when the driver does not act as a reasonably prudent driver under the circumstances. For example, a reasonable and cautious driver would slow down when a child begins running toward the road as he or she chases a ball which was caught by the wind.
All drivers of motor vehicles are responsible for driving in an appropriate manner under the present circumstances. Therefore, drivers should take extra caution when a pedestrian is present or likely to be present, such as in a school zone, near a bus stop, or in a shopping mall parking lot. They should also drive more slowly when it is raining, or the roads are icy or snow-covered. Essentially, each driver should behave in a way that a normal and careful person in the specific given circumstances would.
When a driver deviates from this standard of care by failing to drive as a reasonably prudent person, they may be held liable for the damages caused by their conduct.
When is a pedestrian in Massachusetts at fault?
It can be easy to assume that the driver is at fault when involved in a pedestrian-vehicle accident, however that is not always true. In fact, depending on the circumstances of the incident, a pedestrian may be even held responsible for the damages sustained by the driver during an accident.
For example, if a pedestrian behaved in a way which made it difficult for the driver to avoid an accident, such as running across a street during heavy traffic, jumping into the path of the car, or walking along a roadway at night without reflective mirrors or lights, the pedestrian could be held liable for the collision. Even if the collision did not directly involve the pedestrian (say, if the driver swerved to avoid hitting the pedestrian, lost control of the car, and crashed into a tree), the pedestrian may still be held liable for the injuries sustained to the driver, as well as the damages done to both the car and the property.
Can both the driver and the pedestrian be at fault for an accident?
Sometimes the fault of a motor vehicle-pedestrian accident is not clear or is obviously shared by both the driver and the pedestrian. In other words, the negligence of both parties contributed to the accident. For example, if a driver was texting while operating the vehicle and the pedestrian ran out from behind a parked car into the path of the driver’s car, both parties may be held liable for the accident.
I’ve been involved in a pedestrian accident in Massachusetts . What do I do next?
It can be tempting to attempt to resolve an injury claim directly with the other party’s insurance company rather than hire a personal injury lawyer. Unfortunately, many people who try to do this on their own end up regretting doing so.
Do not work with your opponent’s insurance company at all until you speak with a knowledgeable and experienced pedestrian accident attorney. This includes giving a recorded statement to the insurance company, signing any papers, or undergoing a medical exam with one of their medical professions. Turn over all matters immediately or as early as possible to a competent lawyer, like The Law Firm of Alan R. Goodman, who is committed to protecting your interests.
We also understand that you want to make the best choice for you and your family, and sometimes it is hard to know who will be on your side and fight fiercely for you without meeting your top choices in the field first. Alan Goodman offers careful and thorough attorney evaluations free of charge and with no obligation whatsoever. Just give us a call to learn how we can help you recover your damages and losses due to your pedestrian accident.